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Smart dispensing15th of October 2010
Light sensors, motion sensors, metered dispensing…… today’s air freshener systems are becoming smarter all the time. Ann Laffeaty looks at some of the latest technology that has been designed to make air fresheners both more intelligent and less intrusive – and finds whether they offer any other advantages to the customer.
An air freshener is one of those products that is only really noticed when it is not there. The fragrance it gives off should be pleasant though unobtrusive since its job is simply to replace malodours with more innocuous ones.
But there is no point in perfuming the atmosphere with pleasant scents when there is no-one around to smell them. And today’s automatic air fresheners that pump out shots of fragrance would be highly unwelcome if one of them were to blast directly in someone’s face.
For this reason, air freshener manufacturers have been developing increasingly high-tech solutions to ensure that the air is perfumed only when necessary - and that members of the public are not fragranced head-on. But are such systems becoming overly complicated? And what advantages do they offer the customer in terms of efficiency and cost?
Greater flexibility, increased efficiency and lower cost in use are among the benefits of enhanced technological solutions according to marketing manager of P&L Systems Claire Larcombe.
The company offers a range of dispensing options for various environments including dispensers that can be programmed to match the patterns of the businesses in which they are installed.
“These offer complete flexibility of start/stop time as well as off-day programmability so that fragrances aren’t dispensed when they are not required,” said Larcombe. “This could ensure, for instance, that a fragrance is only dispensed within office hours or at peak periods.”
Adapt to area
She says the frequency between air freshener shots can be programmed to automatically dispense between one and 60-minute intervals. “This allows the fragrancing level to be adapted to the area depending on whether it is in, say, a high traffic washroom or a reception area,” she said. This function is also offered in a 'Micro' version for areas where space is an issue or a more discreet dispenser is required.
According to Larcombe, the technological aspects of an aircare system can help to increase washroom efficiency. “Programmability of both aerosol dispensers and urinal fragrancing can save the service company cost,” she said. “Dispensers can be set to match service cycles while battery and refill-life indicators and external test switches mean that the units are quicker
“Also, we offer a biological urinal fragrancing system that prevents build-ups in the pipes and reduces the number of call-outs for blockages. Additionally we supply timed flush controls to be used alongside these systems that save vast amounts of water cost for the client.”
She said high-tech dispensing systems worked well in retail environments and offices as well as in other front-of-house areas such as office and hotel receptions.
“The environments where our products are used are often demanding which means that robust features such as lockable dispensers and chemical-resistant polypropylene plastic cases are required,” she said. “Additionally, the technology used within the systems must be quick and intuitive to programme so that new dispensers can be set up or existing dispenser programmes can be changed quickly and easily.”
While high-tech solutions are important to the customer, there are other factors that also need to be considered she said. “As well as technology, aesthetics are important – while an air freshener system should be easy to clean for the service company, the visual product design and finish also matter to the end-user.”
Hagleitner has recently launched an air freshener system that comprises a timed interval setting, a light sensor and motion recognition function. According to washroom hygiene product manager Christian Aigner this level of technological flexibility is unique in the industry.
“Our XIBU senseFRESHAIR dispenser uses intelligent sensors to adapt itself to traffic intensity,” he said. “The integrated motion sensor enables automatic additional scenting during busy periods, while the light sensor can be set so that the dispenser only gives out a shot of fragrance when the room is lit. So when it is dark, the dispenser goes into standby mode to save energy and fragrance.”
He said the motion recognition function also provides a safety advantage. “It enables the unit to hold off dispensing any fragrance until people are out of range of the spray,” he said. “This prevents guests from being sprayed directly.”
Customers have come to expect a permanent, pleasant fragrance in the public areas they frequent according to Aigner. “The XIBU senseFRESHAIR ensures that even in times of high visitor frequency there is a pleasant freshness in the room.”
An added technological innovation to the product is a low-battery detector. “The light ring shows when either the batteries or refill are running low while there is still enough time to service the unit,” he said. “This ensures that the dispenser is practically never empty.”
According to managing director of Signature Aromas Brian Chappell, air freshener systems should not be overly complicated. “I don’t think you need to be too sophisticated – it is quite a simple operation,” he said. “We do have the facility to use a light timer that recognises the difference between day and night, or a passive infra-red system that senses the movement of someone coming into the room. But I can’t remember the last time that we were asked for it.”
Signature Aromas has been producing air freshener systems for 11 years. These use non-aerosol units that combine a fan action with an aroma trapped in a material pad. “This allows the aroma to drift into the atmosphere propelled by the fan – you don’t get the concentrated squirt effect that you do with a pump.”
The company’s products can be timed to run for one minute on, one minute off or programmed to run for one minute in every half an hour. “In a nursing home or office it doesn’t have to run through the night – we can use an external timer to enable it to be switched off, say, between 10pm and 6am,” said Chappell.
Vectair’s marketing co-ordinator Matthew Wonnacott claims his company’s products are at the cutting edge of technology. Vectair’s Airoma and Micro Airoma systems automatically deliver metered bursts of fragrance at specific intervals.
The dispensers can be set to match local conditions; for example an eight-hour setting ensures the dispensers only release fragrance between 9 am and 5 pm in an office environment. “There is an ‘Intensity Plus Event’ system in these two dispensers that also allows users to pre-programme the dispenser to deliver additional bursts of fragrance at known busy periods,” said Wonnacott. “Vectair dispensers also have a patented auto-reset button that ensures the unit is automatically reset to the programmed settings after each service.
Avoid wasteful use
“This removes the possibility of human error where customers forget to press the manual reset button and means the fragrance will be delivered consistently.”
High-tech systems can lead to greater efficiency and reduced cost-in-use, according to Wonnacott. “Technological aspects such as programmable settings enable air care systems to be programmed in a way that match the user’s preference. Being able to set a dispenser to only work when a facility is in use allows the user to reduce costs by eradicating wasteful use.”
He said flexible high-tech air freshener dispensers are required at most away-from-home locations. “For example, a high-tech dispenser can be programmed to cope with high user traffic by increasing the fragrance intervals, which can be of benefit in a busy area such as a sports arena or concert hall. But the dispensers can then be programmed to reduce fragrance output when the facility is unattended which can help to relieve wastage and costs.”
However, he says customers do not necessarily expect a high level of technology with their air freshening system. “Customers demand value-for-money dispensers that are reliable and cost efficient,” he said. “High levels of technology in these systems help the user achieve what they demand.”